How To Care For Hand-Knotted Oriental Rugs

An Extensive Guide To Care For Hand-Knotted Oriental Rugs

Oriental rugs are the sturdiest, most coveted floor covering in the market. However, sometimes, their expensiveness can be related to fragileness or delicacy, which is not the case at all.

Since hand-knotted rugs are woven by hand on a loom by amazing artisans over the course of months on end, and each piece is literally one-of-a-kind, that’s why they’re so expensive! However, when it comes to durability, they’re quite unparalleled.

But that does not mean that you don’t need to invest in proper maintenance of your hand-knotted oriental rug.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You need to constantly be on-your-toes about how you can manage to maintain the quality craftsmanship and aesthetics of your oriental rug, and we’re here to tell you how.

Take a look at this extensive guide on exactly what you can do to care for your hand-knotted rug:

1. Daily Care Habits

If you’re thorough with your daily and occasional rug maintenance, you’ll be able to keep yours looking spic-and-span for longer periods of time. Here are some habits that you can emulate in your lifestyle for proper oriental rug care:

Avoiding sunlight

Avoiding sunlight when caring for hand-knotted Oriental rugs

One of the main reasons why sunlight is harmful for hand-woven rugs is that it has the ability to make the colors fade. However, this only happens on areas that are directly exposed to the light, while the rest of rug maintains its rightful aura. Therefore, it’s best to place the rug where it’s only reached by indirect or filtered sunlight.

If your layout idea requires placement within a sunny central room, then it’s best if you have your windows layered with a film of Mylar (which, consequently, may make many manufacturer warranties pretty moot). But it does deflect the harmful UV rays which cause the dyes to fade within the rug fibers.

If your rug has already started to fade, just check if it’s the first few millimeters of the pile. If that’s the case then you can just abrade the first few inches and the rug will be good as new. If that’s not the case, then try to fade the rug evenly all over.

This can be done by covering up the already exposed parts of the rug (to keep them from fading even more!) and leaving the rest of the surface exposed to direct, evenly distributed sunlight.

If you’re wondering how long you’d need to keep it exposed, then there is no set answer. You just leave it out for as long as it takes.

Rotating occasionally

Rotating the direction of your hand-knotted rug can not only make it feasible for sunlight-drenched spaces, but is also a great way to counter heavy-foot traffic.

If you’ve furnished your oriental rug in an area that experiences medium to high foot traffic (i.e. a lot of people tend to walk on it) then changing the direction of the rug once or twice a fortnight can help even out the areas where people walk on.

If the rug is kept stagnant in a single direction, the wool on that area will become crushed and matted quite quickly.

Avoiding furniture dents

Putting furniture on top of hand-knotted rugs (or any kind of rugs for that matter) for long periods of times can leave dents on the surface. Therefore, if you’ve placed a rug in a furniture layout that requires sofas or chairs to sit atop it, then it’s best that you keep altering the direction of the rug so that its surface doesn’t dent.

2. Mid-term & insect management & care

Insects and dampness are the natural-born enemies of hand-knotted rugs. Let’s take a look at some of the major threats and how you can avoid them fully:

Caring against moths

Moths tend to wear a clear path through the wool pile of a hand-knotted oriental rug (from the larval stage) and can totally destroy a hand-woven masterpiece in a matter of a few weeks.

However, they only ever target rugs that are in storage as they don’t like to be disturbed. This means rugs that are used as tapestries are very-much in danger of an infestation. So are the parts of the rug that are hidden underneath furniture.

You can get rid of them with moth crystals, bug-killing sprays, and the occasional rotating of the rug direction so that every part is equally used.

Carpet beetles

Carpet beetles are largely found on the East coast and tend to come in with flower cuttings as they feast on pollen. They scurry into dark spaces and their larvae tend to eat directly through the rug – base and all.

They’re mostly attracted to wool rugs, but don’t discriminate with silk as well. The only way to avoid them is by studious housekeeping and by using bug-killing sprays.

Mold and mildew

Mold and mildew tends to grow on oriental rugs that are kept damp for too long. This happens when you furnish such rugs in spaces that are constantly exposed to water and the rug is unable to dry in-between.

One of the main reasons that many oriental rugs succumb to mold and mildew is when homeowners feature planters on them.

The moisture from the soil seeps within the threads of the rug, which can cause that certain area to rot. It doesn’t matter if the pot is glazed or if there’s a saucer underneath – just simply do NOT put a plant on top of your rug.

Mildew tends to set in around 4-5 days after the rug has been fully drenched. You have a healthy amount of time in-between where you can squeegee the water out or suck it up with a water-based vacuum cleaner.

If you’re drying it indoors, keep the air circulating around it. If it’s still wet after 4-5 days, spray it with Lysol and call a good cleaning specialist.

3. Long-term care strategies

Let’s take a look at some long-term oriental rug caring strategies that will help you maintain and care for them in an heirloom capacity:

Storage

Proper rug storage is an important part of caring for hand-knotted orientals. They need to be kept in cool, dark places that are not susceptible to dampness. Basements and garages are out, as they’re usually out-bound areas that can succumb to extreme cold and dampness when the weather so inclines.

There’s also a proper etiquette to rug storage, which includes cleaning it thoroughly and sprinkling moth crystals on its surface before rolling it up.

Alternately, you can also expose it to sunlight (on both sides) for a day to rid yourself of all moth eggs. Then layer it in 2 to 3 layers of garbage bags, creating an unbreachable layer of protection. It is now ready for storage.

Maintaining the fringes

The fringe of an Oriental rug is arguably its most deteriorating part, tending to wear in about 10-15 years and being almost gone when the rug reaches somewhere between 40 to 60 years old.

Long-term care for the fringe requires either replacement (which can be jarring, considering that fine new threads are used against the worn ones) or you can simply get used to it.

There’s an antiquated charm that comes from the worn-out fringe. It’s not only a testament to the high quality and age of the rug, but also looks very decadent if you look at it a certain way.

That said, the fringe does not have any structural function for the rug. The edges are woven in a way that keeps the threads on the main body intact, and these ones start unraveling 30 years after the conception of a rug. They usually require an ‘end stopping’ so that the rug doesn’t become redundant.

See more: Area Rugs Placement Guide & Top Tips

Maintaining the edges

The edges of a rug are also known as selvages and these need to be maintained as a long-term rug-care strategy. These are usually wrapped in wool or cotton for protection. Don’t go for a machine binding and just stick to the originals.

Professional cleaning

Hand-knotted oriental rugs require professional cleaning. What exactly is the time-frame of this venture? It depends on how dirty your rug actually is and the best way to look at that is by taking a damp white cloth and rubbing at along one corner of your rug.

The amount of dirt that transfers on the cloth will determine how dirty your rug actually is. Note that a bit of discoloration on the rug as you check its cleanability with the cloth is completely normal.

Also note that it letting the professionals work their cleaning magic is way better than risking your own wash on a rug that costs thousands of dollars.

While it can certainly be done, your results won’t be as satisfying. You might also run into color-runs and that might end up ruining the entire rug. Therefore, relying on professional rug cleaners is the best course of action.

How hand-knotted rugs are professionally washed?

Professional cleaning of hand-knotted oriental rugs requires a lot of premeditative steps. Here’s a generalization of the entire process:

Step 1: Loosening the dirt

This step is all about loosening the dirt embedded onto the fibers of the rug before drenching it with water. How does that happen? With professional tumblers, but some cleaners might have other ways unique to their brand as well.

Step 2: Testing for color fastness

If the colors start running from any part of the rug, these areas are filmed with protective gauze stitching or other such materials to keep them from getting wet. Some cleaners may also opt for denatured white-vinegar to stabilize the dyes as well.

Step 3: Evenly drenched and washed

Once the dye-job has been thoroughly appraised, the rug is evenly drenched and washed with hand-operated brushes attached to poles.

Note that no machine should be used for scrubbing hand-knotted rugs. Ever. This is because rotary machines end up tangling the wool pile. Plus, the machines can never tell where the scrubbing should be lighter and where it should be harder.

Step 3.5: Cleaning agent

Scrubbing only works if you have the right cleaning agent. Most cleaners go with neutral agents and sometimes, even conditioners are added if the wool is too dry.

Step 4: Drying

After a thorough cleaning, the rug is dried and gets ready to be delivered back to the customer.

How to maintain a hand-knotted rug at home?

While professional cleaning is only a once-in-a-blue moon go-to venture when your rug truly feels disemaculate, the rest of the time, it can also be maintained at home in the following ways:

Way 1: Regular vacuuming

You can upkeep your oriental rug with regular vacuuming. It’s best to take off the beater bar or you might end up unraveling the rug if any loose wool fabrics get caught in it. If you’re using a beater-type vacuum, it would be great to avoid the fringe for similar reasons.

Way 2: Sweep the rug

You can also sweep the rug with a broom to get rid of some of that dirt, if you’re not too keen on vacuuming. How rigorous your sweeping should be depends on the age of the rug. It’s best not to be too hard on the surface of an old heirloom oriental.

What not to do?

– Don’t beat your oriental rug to clear out the dust.
– Don’t shake your oriental rug.

How to spot-check a hand-knotted rug?

Spot-checking is usually carried out when you accidentally spill something on your rug. Most spills are either water based or oil based. Let’s look at how you can carry out immediate spot-checking on both:

(Important note: the first 15 minutes or so are an important timeframe for spot-checking – especially if your rug is woven out of water-repellent fibers like wool.)

Water based spot-checking

The trick with water-based spot-checking is to clean as much of the liquid as you can before it’s able to get absorbed. Simply putting lots of paper towels on the spill can do the trick.

If the stain is already setting, then you must use a lot of water (at least half a cup or so) to set it free and dab the surface of the rug to absorb it. (Note: you need to check for color-fastness before using any liquid agents on the rug surface, or the dyes might bleed).

You can also sprinkle lots of baking soda on the rug surface as it also tends to absorb water-based spills like wine and coffee very quickly.

Oil-based spot-checking

Oil-based stains are decidedly harder to get off. You first need to absorb the spill with paper towels or even a brown bag (remember to dab, not rub).

Afterwards, sprinkle a healthy dose of corn-starch or baking soda on the stain and let t it for a day. Vacuum it up, and you’ll ideally see the stain gone.

However, if it’s still persistent, it’s best to call professional cleaning services.

See more: Learn about all the different types of Oriental Rugs

Painting Oriental Rugs

Painting a hand-woven oriental rug basically means hiding its defects with textile dyes. The paint-job is usually temporary and either wears or fades off. Painting is usually used to spruce up a rug that’s worn enough that it cannot be cleaned.

That said, painting a rug is usually associated with bad rug dealers so many people view it in a negative light. Moreover, if the paint job is carried out by ameteurs, it can end up ruining the visual integrity of the rug.

At the end of the day, you are the one who must decide if a paint-job is something your rug needs or not.

So this is your extensive guide on how to take care of your oriental rug. We hope it helps you understand the limitations of your hand-knotted rug and the best ways that you can take care of it.

Zunaira Ghazal
About Zunaira Ghazal

Zunaira is a professional architect and interior designer with a passion for writing. She’s designed various residential and commercial projects, which include retail, cafes, and corporate offices. She’s somewhat a veteran in rugs and has even visited an atelier in Turkey where she got to experience this art very closely. She’s very knowledgeable about the difference between all the various rug types, materials, their uses, and how each one can bring a new, unique flavor to an interior design.

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